Our relativistic spheres of morality can prevent us from understanding the dichotomies that lie within the ground of our being. Our good intentions can go astray when they are mixed with the unclean and immature viewpoint in which we base them in. The ranting preacher in the Union Square subway in New York City or the Hezbollah suicide bomber in Tel Aviv may think they are on the right side of history, the right side of divine reality, but one with a thorough understanding set in the depths of the bonafide spiritual sciences will see the clear deficiencies in each approach.
Our good intentions to create a more just reality certainly are not likely to fall into these extremities, but our impact may end up being just as void. How do we know we are getting the message across in the proper way? How do we even know we have the right message? We get one idea from the results of our application, in seeing what hits people hearts and minds. Even then, we may not let go of our misconceived ideas.
Our intentions lay bare on the altar of our being, and we worship them without the slightest understanding of what they actually represent, and how we represent them. We need an inner guidance, best represented in a spiritual authority or personality interacting with us, to examine exactly what we mean and what we mean by it. Any genuine, time-tested, experience-tested spiritual discipline will give us this acute opportunity for examination.
The only question that remains is our desire to do so and our courage to make the commitment. Are we able to examine our intentions for what they are and what they create in a constant, discerning, and piercing manner. Merton writes:
“One must face the fact that 'good intentions' are only as good as long as they are faithfully re-examined in the light of new knowledge, and in the light of their fruits.
More and more we see how in reality the 'good,' 'kind,' 'humane,' and 'loving' intention bears fruit in real evil, cruelty, inhumanity, and hate. The experience of each day makes this more and more clear.
The ethic of subjective 'good intentions' has been judged and found wanting. We must refocus on the objective results of our decisions!”1
This means we must learn the art of mature and exacting responsibility. This was the key motivation for my own choice to live as a monk in the bhakti-yoga tradition of the Vedas. My initial experiences with devotees of this tradition showed me a deeper potential to life itself, and to the potential power of my own ability to help exact and create a solution to the suffering I saw all around me. The discovery of the depth of this experience continues on a daily basis for me, and it begins with an increasing sense of my own developing and maturing responsibility to care for myself so that I may learn to really care for others.
This care must be entirely motivated to bring myself and others closer to the love of God. Otherwise, if it remains simply in the material realms of the political, moral, economical, and altruistic it will create only a temporary relief, much like blowing air on a burn only removes the pain for a short while. The pain is our disconnection from God, which has thrown our application of reality into a whirlpool.
Responsibility is inherently a moral consideration, and moral considerations are inherently concerns originating from the loving will of God in our lives. The realm of social justice must take a step forward to meet once again the objective moral realm of God to fulfill its real purposes and desires.
“There is an objective moral good, a good which corresponds to the real value of being, which brings out and confirms the inner significance of our life when we obey its norms. Such an act integrates us into the whole living movement and development of the cosmos, it brings us into harmony with all the rest of the world, it situates us into our place, it helps us fulfill our task and to participate fruitfully in the whole world's work and its history. In a word, it is an act of obedience to God.”2
Where our striving for justice fails is in the lack of inner integration of our being to the will and the love of God. We become reliant on our dull, imperfect senses, on our illusory, textbook concepts of history, on our own muddled subjectivity to solve problems quite beyond us. We cannot look to the speculations of our society's so-called pundits and scholars to show us the brighter path. We have to look towards the source of morality, the source of goodness, the source of justice Himself, God Himself.
We hold tight to God's will and love, and we can become steady to fight today for what we truly believe in. Merton writes:
“In times like ours, it is more than ever necessary for the individual to train himself, or be trained, according to objective norms of good, and learn to distinguish these from the purely pragmatic norms current in his society...We cannot trust our society to tell us the difference.
Everything is confused, and the men of our time blindly follow now God and now Satan, blown this way and that by every changing wind of urgency and opportunity, judging only by what seem to them to be the immediate consequences.
We must recover our inner faith not only in God but in the good, in reality, and in the power of the good to take care of itself and us as well, if only we attend to it, observe, listen, choose, and obey.”3
If we are looking for a lynchpin to unify ourselves in the face of an immense, weaponized, and demonic evil that is strangling our humanity, we cannot ignore our unity in God, and we cannot ignore the protection and empowerment that He is constantly giving us. This is a tremendous challenge to find this unity, for even amidst the sincere seekers of justice and truth, too often sectarian concerns of religious, political, and social concerns drive a deep wedge that is very difficult to remove from the consciousness.
How can love of God bring it all together? For one thing, love of God belongs to no group in particular but to each and everyone of us. The core of our being, the core of our soul, revels and thrives in the love of God. Everyone has this ability, and there are many applications to bring it out to our conscious, waking awareness.
Only if we dive deeply into our particular application, transcending all sense of distance and separation from our real self, from the real selves of others, and from God do we find this unity. Not only that, but we also find the ability to help others understand this ultimate unity in the love of God. The love of God has the power to overcome all evils, to correct all injustices. To find the love of God in ourselves and to give it to others, freeing us totally on the spiritual and material platforms, is the greatest act of social justice.